Singapore scientists float ‘airborne surveillance’ kit for coronavirus – dpa international

Singapore-based scientists have come up with a device that detects coronavirus in the air of indoor spaces, raising the prospect of “airborne surveillance” of the virus to supplement testing of individuals. The air-sampling method means “early warning of infection risks” could be possible in hospital wards and nursing homes, and could boost virus-monitoring capabilities in public places where people gather indoors, such as restaurants and cinemas.

Tuberculosis neglected as health systems focus on coronavirus pandemic – dpa international

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The “profound” impact of the coronavirus pandemic and related cuts to health care left more than 4.3 million more people suffering from tuberculosis (TB) without treatment in 2020, according to the Stop TB Partnership. Neglecting TB cases means “all but certain death for probably half that number,” the Partnership, a United Nations-linked body, said on Tuesday. Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the partnership, warned that the roughly 50 per cent of survivors “will not only suffer the consequences of the disease but will also spread TB to many more, perpetuating the cycle of transmission.” The prioritization of coronavirus has in turn meant 1.2 million fewer TB diagnoses so far this year compared to 2019.

Mayo Clinic research suggests Trump’s antibody ‘cure’ curbs Covid-19 – dpa international

DUBLIN — A blend of antibody drugs has proven effective among vulnerable patients showing symptoms of Covid-19, according to the Mayo Clinic. Published by The Lancet, a British medical journal, the findings show a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab drugs help ensure “high-risk patients” do not need hospitalisation if hit with “mild to moderate Covid-19.” The clinic gave the drugs, described as “monoclonal antibody treatments under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization,” to almost 700 patients out of 1,400 enrolled in the study. 1.6 per cent of recipients were in hospital 28 days later along with 4.8 per cent of non-recipients, the medics reported.”Once again, this real-world study suggests that when patients who are at high risk due to a range of co-morbidities contract a mild or moderate case of Covid-19, this combination of monoclonal injections gives them a chance of a non-hospitalized recovery,” said Raymund Razonable, an infectious diseases specialist with the clinic.

Birth rates in wealthy nations down since start of pandemic – dpa international

DUBLIN — Birth rates have fallen by almost 10 per cent in some wealthy countries since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US. Using monthly live birth numbers from 2016 to March this year, the researchers reported “preliminary evidence” showing the pandemic has “decreased fertility” in all but 4 of 22 “high income countries” studied. The authors, from the University of Oxford, Cornell University and Universita Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Milan, factored in seasonality and long term trends, but nonetheless estimated a 9.4 per cent fall in Italy and more than 8 per cent in Hungary and Spain. “Belgium, Austria, and Singapore also showed a significant decline in crude birth rates,” they said.

Over 100 million Americans caught coronavirus last year, according to Columbia University – dpa international

Outside a hospital in Ireland, where the government has been reluctant to publish estimates of infections beyond the official count or give details on related matters such as natural immunity (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Almost one-third of Americans could have been infected by the coronavirus in 2020, according to Columbia University estimates. Published in the journal Nature, the research by the Ivy League university’s Mailman School of Public Health suggests 103 million people, or 31 per cent of the population, caught the virus last year, far more than the official year-end tally of just over 20 million, of which 351,998 had died by December 31. “The vast majority of infectious were not accounted for by the number of confirmed cases,” said Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia. Official numbers were accounting for only 10 per cent total estimated infections at the outset of the pandemic in March, when testing was not widely accessible, but rose to 25 per cent by December, according to the researchers.

Almost 270,000 infants may have died in 2020 due to virus curbs, according to World Bank estimates – dpa international

Construction work at Dublin's Mater Hospital in July 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Economic restrictions aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic could have caused an extra 267,000 infant deaths in low and middle income countries last year, according to World Bank estimates published on Monday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). While the virus has so far had a “small direct impact on infant mortality,” it likely caused an indirect rise through “effects on the economy and health system performance,” according to the Bank’s development research team. The estimated increase across 128 countries would account for a near-7-per-cent jump in infant mortality, they said.

Scientists estimate one-fifth of Americans caught coronavirus by March – dpa international

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DUBLIN — Almost 20 per cent of Americans had likely caught the coronavirus by March this year, more than double the roughly 29 million officially reported by that time, according to research published on Monday by the National Academy of Sciences. A “statistical framework” put together by University of Washington scientists suggests around 65 million Americans  caught the virus by March 7. The team said they aimed to “provide a clear picture of Covid-19’s prevalence” as “access to tests, and a willingness to be tested, vary by location.” Official data for Sunday show around 34.3 million cases in the US, where 608,403 people have died after catching the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An undercount of infections could mean the virus is less deadly than official numbers suggest, as the real infection-fatality rate widens substantially beyond the official case-fatality rate, or ratio between confirmed deaths and confirmed cases.

For big populations, rapid coronavirus tests work better than PCR – dpa international

Antibody coronavirus tests for sale in a shop in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Rapid antigen tests for coronavirus likely work better for larger populations than slower but more sensitive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, Indian scientists have found. A “computational analysis” comparing testing regimes and results across India, which was recently hit hard by a virus surge, suggests “the amount of testing matters more than the sensitivity of the tests.” The findings hint that lower- and middle-income countries “might be able to achieve optimal outcomes by concentrating on ramping up testing using less sensitive tests which provide immediate results.”

Coronavirus antibodies last at least 9 months after infection – dpa international

Outside a Dublin hospital (Simon Roighneen)

DUBLIN — Coronavirus antibodies last “at least” nine months after infection, according to Imperial College London and the University of Padua. Antibody levels “remain high” whether or not the infected person developed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease sometimes caused by the virus, the researchers found, after testing patients in northern Italy, one of the hardest hit regions at the outset of the pandemic. “The great majority of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) infections, irrespective of symptom onset, develop antibodies,” according to the research, which was published on Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

Irish government’s pub reopening plan criticised as “discriminatory” – dpa international

Outdoor drinking on a June Sunday afternoon in Galway (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Pubs in Ireland’s capital Dublin have slammed government plans to make them screen customers for proof of coronavirus vaccination as “discriminatory” and likely to spark conflict. The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said the measures, which would apply nationwide as part of a plan to reopen indoor service in restaurants and pubs, “will lead to flashpoints between hospitality staff and potential customers.” “Our members are already reporting there is real anger about this,” according to LVA chief Donall O’Keefe, who on Tuesday said there are “major question marks” about enforcement of the proposed rules, which would also cover customers with proof of previous coronavirus infection. However the LVA believes it has “no option” but “to go along” with plan due to the government’s threat to otherwise retain Europe’s sole remaining ban on indoor drinking and dining until at least September.